Obituary: Gerard van der Graaf (1947-2012)

It is with great sadness to announce that Gerard van der Graaf – the ‘grandfather’ of the renowned Hearts and Minds safety culture programme and founding member of the Tripod Foundation – passed away in September.

In his early days in Norway, Gerard worked on simple Quantitative Risk Analysis (QRA) studies where he developed a strong belief that the sensible use of QRA could be used to understand risk in order to help manage the key factors in safety critical tasks. This was not for the sake of setting ‘tolerability criteria’; rather, when used comparatively, Gerard saw that QRA could be a great help in analysis and decision making. Throughout his life, Gerard maintained a firm stand that QRA should be for this purpose and not used to justify poor operating or engineering practice.

Gerard led QRA in Shell from the mid-1980s to early 1990s and wrote the Shell Group’s standard, the ‘de facto’ approach in industry. The sensible use of emerging consequence modelling was core to his heart and he worked with others to make that available to engineering in the field. He spent a short spell as head of Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) for NAM before returning to a global HSE role at Shell International Exploration and Production.

In the post Piper Alpha days, HSE management systems were in place but, from experience of audits and incidents, Gerard became more convinced that they were not being effectively used. Turning his attention to the growing area of safety culture, Gerard steered Shell’s Hearts and Minds programme from initial conception to the current toolkit offered by the EI, and he was the Chair of the Tripod Foundation for a number of years, until ill health forced him to retire.

Gerard was a thought leader with a great vision of how to drive performance improvement, based on the premise that no one should ever be hurt at work. He was a source of inspiration and wise council and will be sorely missed.

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